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Car-wrapper scam claiming more victims via email

“Drive for long enough in any good-sized city, and you're likely to see a car that's been wrapped in an advertisement,” explained the National Consumer League. “For businesses, these ads are a unique marketing opportunity. For consumers, getting paid to turn their car into a rolling advertisement can be a way to effortlessly earn some extra money. The deal is so appealing that waiting lists are reportedly years-long and advertisers get to be choosy about the types of cars they work with and the number of miles drivers must commit to.”

Unfortunately, scammers have recently started to catch on to the popularity of these car advertisement programs among consumers.

NCL describes it thusly: Typically consumers will receive a spam email or see an ad on Craigslist that falsely claims that Monster Energy Drink is looking for people to advertise on their cars, offering a $300 payment in return. After emailing the contact, dupes are sent a check for $1,000–$2,000, allegedly to cover the costs of both installing the advertisement and payment. Victims are instructed to cash the check, take out their payment and wire the remainder to the "support team" for the advertising campaign. After wiring the money, consumers will find out that the check is a fake and are typically left owing the bank while fraudsters pocket the cash from the wire transfer.

Barracuda Labs said that it is seeing an increase in volume of spam-based lures for the scam. “This is a scam that could victimize anyone who is even just a little bit trusting,” said Dave Michmerhuizen, research scientist at Barracuda, in a blog. “Because the spam is plausible and the scam isn't obivous, people need to be aware of what this is all about.”

The email looks reasonable, he explained, with no funny links or attached files, just an offer written in plain English and an email address.

However, the wire transfer requirement should tip people off. “The mention of Western Union should be a huge red flag,” he said. “Money sent via Western Union can be picked up anywhere in the world and the company offers no recourse if the payment was solicited fraudulently. The service is a favorite of all sorts of scammers. Never send money away via Western Union unless you personally know the recipient.”

Monster Energy drink is the most often-used brand to carry off this scheme, “possibly because the popular brand resonates with young people who could use some extra money, and also because a monster-wrapped car might actually look cool - but be advised, other brands such as Coca-Cola and Budweiser have been used in this scam,” the researcher added.

The NCL said that complaints were up for all forms of the scam.

“These scams are especially repugnant because they prey on people who need to enhance their income and can least afford the loss,” said Michmerhuizen. “Bottom line - as a rule, if someone emails you out of the blue offering you money, don't bother with it.”

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